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With a surge of Covid-19 cases expected this winter, now is the time to stock up on free at-home tests.
The free at-home Covid test program from the federal government was suspended in September, but there are still ways to get Covid-19 tests at no cost. Americans with private health insurance can get reimbursed by their insurers for up to eight tests a month for themselves and each person on their plan.
What the At-Home Reimbursement Policy Covers
Insurance companies and group health plans have been required to cover the costs of over-the-counter, at-home Covid-19 tests since the beginning of 2022.
Test reimbursements are available to people with private, employer-sponsored or student health insurance. Medicare Part B also covers up to 8 free at-home Covid-19 tests each month, and will continue to cover the costs until the public health emergency is declared over by the Department of Health and Human Services. Medicaid coverage rules vary by state.
Americans with private health coverage can obtain tests for free online or in select pharmacies and retailers by showing proof of insurance. Alternatively, they can buy test kits and submit claims for reimbursement.
If you get a Covid booster at certain pharmacies, they may ask if you’d like to order free tests and pick them up at your booster appointment.
The policy only covers over-the-counter Covid-19 tests authorized and approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Insurers must cover the cost of eight tests per insured individual each month. For instance, a family of four is eligible to request 32 tests. You don’t need an order from your physician to qualify, and tests ordered by a healthcare provider—such as for someone with underlying conditions—aren’t subject to the reimbursement limit.
If an insurer offers a way for covered individuals to obtain a test with no out-of-pocket costs—such as through a preferred pharmacy or retailer—that’s your best option for getting test kits free of charge.
Otherwise, you must buy the test and then submit a claim to your insurance company. If the insurance company has a process for you to buy the tests without up-front costs, it’s only required to reimburse $12 per test; if it doesn’t, then it must cover the full cost of the test, even if it’s more than $12.
Each test is counted separately, even if multiple tests are sold in a single package. For example, a package of two tests could be eligible for up to $24 in reimbursement.
Here’s what you need to know about the reimbursement policies for the five largest health insurance companies.
Aetna Home Covid Test Reimbursement
Reimbursement details: If you have health insurance through Aetna, the insurer has an easy-to-navigate page that details the reimbursement policy.
What’s covered: There is no mention of a preferred pharmacy or retailer for obtaining a test even though Aetna is part of CVS Health, which owns the pharmacy chain. Lab-based PCR home collection kits are not covered under the reimbursement policy.
How to get funded: According to Aetna, members with pharmacy benefits can submit reimbursement claims through their Aetna member website. After logging into your account, choose “Learn About Test Kits & Reimbursement” for more information. Only tests bought on or after January 15, 2022 are eligible for reimbursement.
Of note: Aetna specifies that “tests must be used to diagnose a potential Covid-19 infection” and tests used for employment, school or recreational purposes aren’t eligible for reimbursement.
Company information: Insured members have a variety of ways to contact the company for more information on how to get their at-home Covid-19 tests funded.
UnitedHealthcare Home Covid Test Reimbursement
Reimbursement details: If you have health insurance through UnitedHealthcare, the insurer offers a FAQ page that offers a few details about covering the costs of at-home tests.
What’s covered: Specific benefits related to at-home Covid test reimbursements depend on your specific health insurance plan and how your employer has chosen to administer the benefit. The FAQ page advises enrollees to sign in to myuhc.com to learn more about their specific benefits.
How to get financed: Members should sign in to their online accounts for more information on how to submit reimbursement claims.
Of note: Members can submit claims for up to eight kits per insured individual every 30 days.
Company information: UnitedHealthcare’s FAQ page is vague. If you have additional questions, insured members have a variety of ways to contact the company.
Anthem Home Covid Test Reimbursement
Reimbursement details: If you have health insurance through Anthem, the insurer has a straightforward page that covers how its reimbursement policy works.
What’s covered: Certain Anthem members may be able to order at-home diagnostic test kits either on the insurer’s Sydney Health app or online. If you are eligible you will see this option after logging in. Otherwise, Anthem members can buy test kits from pharmacies or retailers and submit a claim for reimbursement. Anthem doesn’t mention the option for receiving tests without upfront costs through a preferred pharmacy or retailer.
How to get funded: If you’re not among the limited number of Anthem members who can order tests online, then you’ll need to pay for the kits and submit a claim for reimbursement. You’ll need a copy of your receipt to submit a claim online through the member portal on Anthem’s website.
Of note: Anthem still encourages members to use in-person diagnostic Covid-19 testing centers, and offers a test site finder for members.
Company information: Insured members have several ways to contact the company for more information about at-home Covid test reimbursement.
Cigna Home Covid Test Reimbursement
Reimbursement details: If you have health insurance through Cigna, the insurer has a straightforward FAQ page covering how its reimbursement policy works. Members can log in to their accounts to submit a reimbursement claim online.
What’s covered: Cigna offers reimbursement for test kits that members purchase. Members submitting a claim for reimbursement may be required to sign an attestation that the test was purchased for a covered plan member, is not for employment purposes, has not and will not be funded by another source and is not for resale.
How to get funded: Cigna members must submit a reimbursement claim online or via fax or mail. The form includes a checklist of eligible test kits. The aforementioned attestation and asks for your information, such as your Cigna ID number. Cigna notes that certain plan providers may require additional documentation, such as the UPC code for the test.
Of note: Cigna says it doesn’t include “Telehealth proctor supervised” BinaxNOW tests in its reimbursement plan.
Company information: Insured members have a variety of ways to contact the company for more information about how to get their at-home Covid tests funded.
Kaiser Permanente Home Covid Test Reimbursement
Reimbursement details: If you have health insurance through Kaiser Permanente, the insurer has an extensive page about Covid-19 testing that includes some information about its reimbursement policy.
What’s covered: Kaiser Permanente members can order four home tests at a time to be delivered for free. Otherwise, members can pick up self-tests at Kaiser Permanente pharmacies for free, or submit a claim for reimbursement for test kits they purchase.
How to get funded: Kaiser members must submit a claim online, with details about the tests purchased and proof of payment, which could include an itemized bill with the date of service and a proof of payment, such as a receipt or bank statement. The insurer doesn’t offer details about how quickly members will be reimbursed.
Of note: In some cases, you can send a saliva home-collection kit back to Kaiser Permanente for processing. This test is available for asymptomatic members who are in close contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19 or have been recommended by their doctor to take a test.
Company information: Insured members have various ways to contact the company.
Other Options for Covid-19 Testing
The Biden administration sent free at-home Covid-19 tests to households that requested them earlier this year, but the program was suspended in September when Congress didn’t provide more funding for it.
With the government no longer sending free tests to Americans, using the insurance reimbursement program is the best way to get your at-home Covid tests at no cost. Some pharmacy loyalty programs even keep track of your 30-day period and notify you of when you can order more tests.
CVS email to a rewards member reminding them that they can now order up to eight more Covid-19 tests for free through insurance reimbursement.
If you don’t have insurance, you’ll have to seek out a free or low-cost testing location. The CDC notes that some health centers provide testing services to eligible individuals regardless of their ability to pay, and will provide a sliding scale for how much it’ll cost based on income and family size.
Use this tool from the CDC to find a testing location near you.